Pork Giant Smithfield Pushes Into the Market for Plant Protein

(Bloomberg) -- The world’s largest pork processor is entering the fast-growing market for plant-based protein.

Smithfield Foods, a $15 billion food company, is launching a new line of soy-based products under its Pure Farmland brand, including burgers, meatballs and breakfast patties, according to a statement on Monday.

Big meat companies are racing to catch-up as plant-based protein resonates with consumers. Beyond Meat Inc. has surged since its trading debut in May and its burgers and sausages are now in thousands of stores and restaurants across the U.S. Impossible Foods, its chief rival, recently expanded its burger nationwide with the fast-food chain Burger King.

Pork Giant Smithfield Pushes Into the Market for Plant Protein

Smithfield follows other large meat companies in embracing alternative protein. Tyson Foods has announced it will offer a burger made of half beef and half pea protein, while Perdue Farms is launching “Chicken Plus” nuggets made from a blend of chicken, cauliflower and chickpeas.

The companies, watching the success of Beyond and Impossible, are trying to cash in on the rise of the “flexitarian” lifestyle --consumers who aren’t avoiding meat entirely, but want to reduce their consumption by replacing it with other plant-based options. The plant-based category could capture as much as 10% of the global meat market in ten years, reaching $140 billion, according to a recent report from Barclays.

Smithfield was acquired in 2013 by Hong Kong-listed WH Group. In recent years, it has tried to push deeper into the market for packaged foods, focusing on products like sliced ham and marinated pork chops, to offset volatility in its commodity business.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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